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Additive Optimisation for Improved Ceramics

Final Report Summary - ADOPTIC (Additive Optimisation for Improved Ceramics)

The ADOPTIC project aimed to improve ceramic products and raise yields, to an extent depending on the product and process category, through the appropriate selection and dosage of additives. Moreover, it attempted to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) of the sector to integrate emerging technologies in order to maintain their competitiveness.

Rheology protocols were developed for each main category of processes, so as to establish a common framework and facilitate communication within the sector. In addition, alternative additives were compared and best mixtures for the targeted applications were defined. Finally, a database was created to provide information on additives to the manufacturers.

The undertaken activities were structured in distinct, yet interrelated, work packages (WPs) and could be grouped as follows:
1. Information collection based on literature review, partners' experience, which was defined using questionnaires, and laboratory testing of selected alternatives.
2. Experiments associated with additives in three different physical states, namely fluid suspensions, powders and plastic bodies.
3. Development of a project specific knowledge system (KS).
4. Application of the acquired knowledge to overcome existing industrial problems.
5. Knowledge dissemination to SMEs and creation of a strategy for project outcomes' exploitation actions.

The developed approach provided solutions to the majority of the examined problems, while it resulted in significant benefits for the involved SMEs, such as yield augmentation, energy savings, improved product quality, increased recycling, application of new techniques and new products' development. The observed results were promising even in cases where the innovations could not be immediately applied.

The web-based KS offered the opportunity to investigate additives using three alternative options; thus, the different levels of SMEs awareness of additives were taken into account. Information on each substance was additionally summarised in a template format. The integrated data were primarily evaluated through laboratory testing and secondly through literature review. Feedback from KS application allowed for its continuous refinement and update, as well as for the establishment of a future implementation strategy.

A common, simple, reproducible procedure regarding rheology tests was designed as part of the project. Rheological protocols were developed for each class, so as to allow for comparisons between systems. The impact of novel ceramic processing was also taken into consideration to improve the procedures' performance. Sophisticated testing was proposed only in cases where ADOPTIC methodology could not produce satisfying results. Details of the finalised technique were incorporated in the KS, as well as suggestions on software which could be applied for testing. Furthermore, training programs were organised in order to inform SMEs on the benefits that rheology implied when assessing new additives.

In addition, the influence of additives on glaze and pigment efficiency was investigated, since it could increase the final product aesthetic quality, and thus its commercial value. Additives' contribution to shaping capacity was also evaluated. The swelling behaviour and low solubility of plasticisers in water could reduce mixing efficacy; hence, recommendations were provided to the SMEs depending on the methods applied in production. Moreover, the importance of controlling suspensions was highlighted, since all ceramic processes included a fluid suspension stage.

ADOPTIC also evaluated the effects of additives' exploitation in numerous emerging activities of the industry, including nano-ceramics production. The assessment outcomes were integrated in the developed KS, so as to inform SMEs on alternative technologies and issues that were likely to arise. Nevertheless, further research was required to sufficiently incorporate the emerging innovations.

The proposed methodologies for all alternative processes, either conventional or innovative, were industrially validated and optimised. Moreover, analyses were performed to estimate the potential economic benefits and expected employment increase in the sector.

Dissemination activities were undertaken to ensure communication of ADOPTIC results within professionals. Besides, a strategy to facilitate exploitation of the innovations after the project completion was developed and focus was given on the required training activities to ensure applicability of the project proposals. All relevant material was initially available in English and later translated to other European languages. Feedback from completed activities allowed for gradual improvement of the training process.

The ADOPTIC project was successfully completed and the finalised KS included extensive information in an appealing and easily accessible format. Nevertheless, it was recommended that the database was expanded after the project completion so as to reduce knowledge gaps and follow the continuously emerging techniques.